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Stigmatisation will only undermine the battle against COVID-19: Dr Lenin
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, July 01 2020: Stigmatisation or discrimination of people who come back from quarantine centres and healthcare workers would not bring anything positive except undermining the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, said Head, Department of Psychiatry, RIMS Prof Dr RK Lenin.

Speaking to The Sangai Express, Dr RK Lenin said it is pertinent to examine whether the misery caused by the pandemic has been compounded by discrimination and ostracising of health care workers and people who have stayed in quarantine centres.

Due to stigmatisation and discrimination of COVID-19 positive people even after they have recovered, and on account of lack of timely intervention, cases of suicide have been rising across the world.

The State has already witnessed one such case, Dr Lenin said.

There have been cases of avoiding persons who have come back from isolation wards or quarantine centres by their own family members and community.

Even if the family members have no problem with such individuals, neighbours and people of the locality make no effort to conceal their contempt for those people who come back from quarantine centres or isolation wards, he said.

Earlier it was thought that providing psychological support and counselling to people staying in quarantine centres and isolation words would be enough but it has turned out that it is equally important to give counselling at the community level, Dr Lenin continued.

There are also cases of stigmatising doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and others on the ground that they are directly involved in treating COVID-19 infected people.

If doctors, nurses and health care workers are discriminated in such manner without any second thought, no doctor would come forward to treat COVID-19 positive people, he said.

The authorities have been fighting the war against COVID-19 pandemic with all the vigour by opening COVID care centres, isolation wards, quarantine centres and by purchasing medicines and equipment.

And the war is being fought successfully so far, he remarked.

Stress, trauma and other mental problems created by the pandemic must be addressed on time otherwise people may suffer from psychiatric problems extensively after the COVID-19 pandemic is contained, Dr Lenin cautioned.

He said that people must learn to live with COVID-19 for the contagion would not go away any time soon.

Instead of waiting for complete eradication of COVID-19, it would be better if people adapt new ways of life and hygiene, he said.

People should be wary of COVID-19 for it is this which makes people take up all possible preventive and protective measures but there is no need to fear people who have been tested positive for the contagion, he continued.

"The battle against the pandemic will end in devastating defeat if we stigmatise and ostracise each other", Dr Lenin said.

It is natural for people put in isolation wards and quarantine centres to be mentally disturbed.

People grow mentally weak when they suffer from even common fever.

This feeling can transform into a chronic illness specially for those people who are not mentally strong if they are not given the necessary support in time, he said.

As demanded by the treatment mode of COVID-19, direct contact is not advisable but there is no harm in talking with people staying in quarantine centres or isolation wards regularly through telephone including video call, Dr Lenin said.

Doctors, nurses and other frontline workers should have the basic knowledge to learn the mental state of inmates of quarantine centres and isolation wards and see if they need consultation with psychiatrists or psychologists, he continued.

At the same time, the inmates should not overlook the fact that they are there for their own safety, their families and the society, said the psychiatrist.

Quarantines centres would be having shortages and shortfalls and the inmates may feel dull and restless but the inmates need to make themselves occupied physically and mentally by helping the volunteers.

If any of the inmates is suffering from withdrawal symptom, prompt information must be given to the psycho-social support team who have been working under the COVID Control System, he said.

People should know about COVID-19 and how it spreads, even if it is not up to the level of a doctor.

If people know what is COVID-19 and follow the prescribed preventive and protective measures, there is nothing to be afraid of, Dr Lenin asserted.

He also appealed to all the people to determine daily time management formula in the morning by incorporating physical activities or exercise and recreation.

Yoga and meditation may also be included.

There should be time for interaction with family members, he added.


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